Nic Hess

May 23, 2009 - November 8, 2009



Swiss artist Nic Hess is known for his inventive wall works composed almost entirely of masking tape. Like a master graffiti artist, he turns everyday imagery into bold graphics often borrowing logos from corporations such as Chrysler, AT&T, Nike and even Mary Long cigarettes. Mixing drawing, bright colors and icons from a variety of sources, Hess makes us reevaluate our understanding of familiar signs in consumer culture. In his elaborate compositions he draws new connections and weaves a loose narrative of worlds colliding and visions exploding. For the Hammer’s Lobby Wall, Hess will present a new work specially designed for the site.



By Robert Summers


Swiss-born artist Nic Hess creates what he often refers to as drawing installations or tape drawings, which actively manipulate traditional art practices such as drawing, painting, sculpting, collage, and installation art. (1) Hess collects images from fine art sources and commercial and popular culture, and he draws them in a way that removes the traditional hierarchy among the images, in a sense leveling art and commerce to an even playing field. Indeed, Hess is an inheritor of the aesthetic sensibilities of the British Independent Group and American pop art and their flattening of the traditional binary of high and low art. By redeploying the tradition of appropriation, Hess’s art consumes the barrage of images that bombard us everywhere, in every way.


In his work Well Done (2001), for example, the artist takes the iconic Nike swoosh and Jacques-Louis David’s Death of Marat (1793) and intertwines the two completely disparate images to form an entirely new visual. Hess reminds us that there is no reprieve from the global marketplace, yet he also imbues the familiar corporate logos and historical images with his own personal history. For example, Jean-Paul Marat, like Hess, was a Swiss-born intellectual and writer at a time of great political and economic turmoil. Hess too is concerned with politics and the economy, but he deploys a certain postmodern sensibility that blatantly acknowledges that there is no black and white in our current political sphere (and perhaps there never was); furthermore, Well Done was made at the time of the second American-led invasion of Iraq. So unlike Marat’s unyielding political theories and ideals, Hess’s art (as text) is politically ambivalent and open-ended, visualizing, for better or worse, our current political and economic climate. More


(London and New York: Continuum, 2004)

Hammer Projects is made possible with major gifts from Susan Bay-Nimoy and Leonard Nimoy and The Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation.

Additional generous support is provided by the Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Good Works Foundation and Laura Donnelley, L A Art House Foundation, the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs, the David Teiger Curatorial Travel Fund, and Fox Entertainment Group’s Arts Development Fee.


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